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Re-Election Through Division

Morelli, Massimo; Van Weelden, Richard

We provide a positive analysis of effort allocation by a politician facing reelection when voters are uncertain about the politician’s preferences on a divisive issue. We then use this framework to derive normative conclusions on the desirability of transparency and other institutional design features. There is a pervasive incentive to “posture” by over-providing effort to pursue divisive policies, even if all voters would strictly prefer to have a consensus policy implemented. As such, the desire of politicians to convince voters that their preferences are aligned with the majority can lead them to choose strictly pareto dominated effort allocations. Transparency over the politicians’ effort choices can either mitigate or re-enforce the distortions depending on the strength of politicians’ office motivation and the efficiency of institutions. When re-election concerns are paramount, and executive institutions are strong, transparency about effort choices can be bad for both incentivizing politicians and for sorting.



More About This Work

Academic Units
Department of Economics, Columbia University
Department of Economics Discussion Papers, 1314-02
Published Here
November 21, 2013